Large Crowd Attends Camas Youth Advisory Council Forum for Local Candidates Debate

October 25, 2011

Introduction of Candidates by Youth Council

The Camas Youth Advisory Council was the actual star of the show Monday evening, with their ninth annual Candidate Forum.  Six Candidates participated in this professionally orchestrated forum, with the students from the Advisory Council utilizing time cards in the strictest sense, and posing tough but relevant questions .  The forum took place in the new Camas High School Auditorium.  There was a large crowd in attendance, with most seats filled.

The Camas Youth Advisory council serves as the liaison between the city and the student body of Camas.  “We strive to make our peers more politically aware and work to represent the student ideas and the Camas politics”.  Advisers for the Youth Council are Casey O’Dell of the Camas School Board, and Steven Marshall, Camas High School Principal.

The six candidates participating were Bill Ward and Neil Cahoon for the position of Commissioner for the Port of Camas-Washougal District No, 2, Margaret Tweet and Shannon Turk for Camas City Council Ward No.3 Position No. 2, and Scott Higgins and Ken Kakuk for the position of Mayor of Camas.


Neil Cahoon and Bill Ward


Candidates were given a one minute opening statement, followed by two minute questions and responses, with some questions having 30 minute rebuttals. According to the CYAC, the questions were not  released before the forum, so each participant had equal opportunity to respond.

Bill Ward

Following their opening statements, questions posed to the Port Candidates were:

What do you see in the future in terms of development and regulation for Grove Field?

Ward responded by describing the history of Grove Field airport and improvements, and the Port’s plans to continue to maintain the airport as a recreational airport as a benefit for the community.  He emphasized his obligation to “tell the truth” and his actions in researching concerns with FAA funding.

Cahoon responded with questions of his own regarding the purpose of FAA funding.  He sees airports as providing important services, and questioned the amount of property that the Port would have to purchase for the airport in the future.  He added that it is “normal” for Federal money to not be assured, and airports not being high on the FAA list.

Neil Cahoon

Average households in Camas pay about $200 per year to the Port.  What benefits do tax payers receive for this type of payment.

Cahoon responded by stating the the Port takes in “about $2.1 million dollars”, and has put more than 50% in their reserves.  He sees adding to reserves only when “times are good”, and the government needs to do more with less.

Ward responded by saying that the Port serves “all residents of this district”.  He stated that the industrial park provides about 400 jobs, the parks are all enjoyed by the public, and that the reserves are for the community, with the intended purposes being economic development.

How do you plan to develop key areas controlled by the port that would positively impact the local economy?

Ward’s response was that the Port is currently looking at new waterfront development, and invited the public to the Open House this Wednesday.  He stated that the youth of the community are the ones who will really benefit from the Port’s efforts in the future.  He referred to the Steigerwald Commerce Center as another key area of economic development, and said that investment in other properties in both Camas and Washougal will be happening soon.

Cahoon offered that CWEDA is a “great idea” and he hopes it works.  He described it as “wining as dining” to do its job.  He stated that the citizens are paying for this organization twice; once through Port taxes and again through city taxes.  He stated that he wants to see more “action” from the Port.

Next to the podium were the Camas City Council candidates, Margaret Tweet and Shannon Turk.

Following their opening statement, questions posed to the Camas City Council candidates were:

Shannon Turk

Explain what kinds of cuts you would support in order to manage the budget crisis similar to the gap in the city’s 2011 budget.

Turk offered several area to consider reductions, putting emergency services as primary to uphold.

Tweet offered cutting back on travel and training, and giving back $50,000 that was allocated for CWEDA.  She stated that she disagrees with giving the former Mayor  $130,000 salary from this.

What would you do to attract business to Camas?

Tweet used Ferrel house as example of something that should have happened.  She would have liked to see the city work with the owner in a collaberative manner.

Turk stated that she supports the formation of CWEDA, saying that it is doing the job of attracting businesses.

What do you see as the biggest challenges for the city of Camas?

Turk said she sees fiscal responsibility as a challenge, especially for police and fire services.

Tweet stated concern about having a new taxing district for parks, seeing a need for public debate and understanding first.

Margaret Tweet

Tweet stated her compaign platform as “More open Government”.  She said that she was responsible for more open government in the community.    She also stated that the law has been changed to allow tolling on the I-205 bridge and other brides to pay for the I-5 bridge, with one of her campaign issues being the Columbia River Crossing project.

Turk disagreed that the city council “lacks accountability”, in response to Tweet directing her criticisms to the City of Camas.    She says that the council is doing things right.

The two candidates for Camas Mayor, Scott Higgins and Ken Kakuk, were next to speak.

Following their opening statements, questions posed to the candidates for Mayor of Camas were:

What do you believe is the appropriate role for the city ofCamas, and how do you plan to take on this role?

Scott Higgins

Higgins stated the role is that of strong mayor in charge of “corporation”, and in charge of daily operations, with excellent staff.  The mayor must work closely with the council, who approves his recommended budget.  He said the city is currently doing good job and can also improve.  Website and technology will be utilized for public information access.  Budget constraints in the  past made this difficult.

Kakuk described the various roles within city government, stating that things can be better in regards to informing the public, with a need for an updated website, and a cumbersome record keeping process that needs better data base.  He wants to use technology to improve information to public.

As the mayor, how do you plan on supporting local businesses?

Kakuk wants to defer regulations to get people working and business started, specifically for small businesses.

Higgins discussed the current economic development that Camas is doing, with a re-post of the budget being proposed, and keeping money in CWEDA so it can work to attract businesses to the community.

What specific steps will you take in order to bring jobs back to Camas?

Higgins stated that Camas has been doing this for a long time, and will continue.  He cited Nan Hendrickson as an example of those that have done this in the past, and he plans to continue.

Ken Kakuk

Kakuk stated the need to develop the Cascade development park, and that the county (commissioners)  needs to be pushed.  He mentioned the CRC process and a lawsuit ongoing regarding questions about a $30million dollar fund.  He stated the need for a bridge at 192nd Avenue to bring more business to the business park with Wafer tech. He also sees the need for another bridge from the Port of Camas-Washougal to the Port of Portland.

Higgins stated he would never make “the arbitrary decision” of having a bridge at 192nd, seeing this as increasing traffic and other issues of concern, but stated that citizens must decide this.

During closing remarks, Scott Higgins gave some of the history of the Camas Youth Advisory Commission.

Scott Higgins, along with Casey O’Dell helped to start the Camas Youth Advisory Commission, and reported pride in these students as well as a change in his perspective being a person in the hot seat.

CYAC at work